Green solutions for hotels: Ozone Laundry

Green Laundry in hotels

Green Hotelier takes a look at how hotels can become more efficient in their laundry operations and gets the lowdown on Ozone Laundry systems

A hotel’s laundry room is one of the most environmentally impactful areas of its operations.  It is estimated that laundry services in general account for roughly 15-20% of all energy consumption within a full-service hotel.  And according to the Environmental Protection Agency in the U.S., those operations are also responsible for 16% of the property’s total water usage.  But energy and water consumption are really only the beginning.  There are also serious considerations for responsible chemical usage and wastewater disposal.  Linen life is most certainly a green issue as well.  It’s been estimated that 75-80% of a fabric’s lifecycle impact comes from washing and drying.

To find out more about new green laundry solutions, Green Hotelier speaks with Matt Deibler, VP of Sales & Marketing at AirTrona International about the environmental benefits of Ozone Laundry systems. Here's what he had to say...

What is Ozone Laundry?

Ozone laundry provides hoteliers with an opportunity to diminish their environmental impact while achieving significant reductions in their operational costs.  The process involves completion of the wash cycle using water saturated with ozone, instead of standard tap water. Laundry disinfecting has been traditionally accomplished by bleaching with chlorine at high temperatures along with agitation. This bleach is normally a slow reactant at cold temperatures, so hot water is used in conventional washers to enhance the oxidation reaction of chlorine bleach.  Ozone, which carries an electrical charge, does the disinfecting in place of hot water.

How does ozone technology work?

Ozone is simply an active form of oxygen. An ozone molecule is made up of 3 oxygen atoms (O3).  To create ozone we first start with oxygen in its commonly known structure, O2.  O2 is the form of oxygen that we breathe every day to keep us alive.  O2 is then split into its original atoms (O1) using a designated energy field.  Oxygen atoms do not like to roam independently, so they cling to other oxygen molecules to form O3 (Ozone).  Ozone (O3) is a colorless gas and powerful sterilizer that oxidizes mold and mildew, pollen, odors, and other airborne organisms upon contact, rendering them inactive, leaving behind as its byproduct pure clean oxygen (O2) in the air.

Ozone works well in cold water and reacts very rapidly, dissolving soil on contact. In fact, hot water is unnecessary for most ozone laundry systems. Ozone sanitizes through a process known as oxidization, which is the chemical combination of a substance with oxygen. Organics are typically found to be rich in electrons while ozone is electron deficient.  Thus, the reaction is rapid, creating an oxide form of the organic that releases more easily from laundry material.  Being a strong oxidant, adding ozone to the wash cycle allows you to use significantly less detergent while achieving a superior cleansing effect. Because the detergent has been reduced, some rinse cycles to remove detergent residues may be shortened or even eliminated. And with less detergent, linens and clothes do not compact as much and they release less lint, adding to the life expectancy of the fabric.

Why is it more efficient?

There are countless environmental and economic benefits associated with ozone laundry systems.  But let’s start with where we began the article: energy consumption.  By eliminating the need for hot water (85-100%) and reducing both wash and dry times as a result of the removal of certain cycles, ozone laundry systems are able to yield substantial electrical savings while also allowing for increased production within the property’s facility.  Ozone laundering has been determined on average to reduce overall water consumption by about 20% and detergent/chemical usage by around 40%.

This means a reduced sewer bill and far fewer toxic pathogens being distributed out into the environment than with traditional laundry methods.  Ozone has been found to destroy bacteria 3,000 times faster than chlorine and has been proven effective at removing even the most stubborn odors.  So linens achieve superior sanitization and odor removal along with a doubled life expectancy as a result of the less damaging, ozone infused wash cycles.

Case Study

At the AAA 4-Diamond rated Le Centre Sheraton Montreal, property managers were able to reduce the hotel’s laundry expenses by more than 70% with the installation of ozone commercial laundry systems.  The hotel cut its detergent expenses in half and significantly reduced the amount of water needed to effectively clean the property’s linens.  Personnel and guests have left countless comments about the bright, white fluffy nature of their towels and linens.  And management knows that they’ve impacted the environment in a positive way, and that’s something that really excites them.

What about other green laundry solutions?

Ozone is an excellent place to direct your hotel’s green laundry initiatives but it’s not the only option.  You may want to begin by evaluating the properties of your current detergent formulations and attempt to seek out environmentally desirable chemical characteristics and attributes such as: readily biodegradable, neutral pH, less toxic polymers, straight chain carbon molecules, and large molecular sizes.  You may also look into Easily Destroyed Surfactants, which are designed to be treated on-site and rendered non-toxic following the cleaning process.  If you effectively handle your chemical usage, your wastewater will be less negatively impactful and your linens will respond better to the wash cycle.  And if you can find a way to lower your dependency on hot water, you’ll find yourself in an even better position.

Green Hotelier's Know How Guide on water conservation also has the following tips on becoming more efficient in laundry operations:

  • Where outsourced, ask your supplier what procedures they have in place to reduce water and energy use
  • Wash small quantities in a 5kg machine and always ensure machines are fully loaded
  • Minimise the rinse cycle as much as possible without reducing quality
  • Consider using “intermediate extraction” between rinse operations
  • Consider the reuse of water from previous rinse cycles for the first wash of the next cycle by installing temporary holding tanks
  • Maintenance is also key: Check regularly for leaking dump valves, ensure that all water inlet valves are closing properly and check that level controls on water reuse tanks are working properly
  • 500-room-plus hotels could consider installing a continuous batch washer (CBW), which uses all the rinse water for pre-washing and main suds operation
  • Ensure that the water flow rates on tunnel washers and CBWs are adjusted to the manufacturer’s recommended setting
  • When buying washing machines, look out for a good water consumption rating

AirTrona International is a green technology company, specializing in the development and distribution of safe and environmentally friendly ozone laundry and sanitization solutions
For more information about water conservation see our guide to Sustainable Management of Water and for energy efficient tips see articles in our Energy & Carbon saving in hotels section

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